Mixed martial arts: Back to basics for dos Anjos as he gears up for UFC return

UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos (right) in training at Evolve MMA. The Brazilian will return to UFC action in July in a title bout with Eddie Alvarez.
UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos (right) in training at Evolve MMA. The Brazilian will return to UFC action in July in a title bout with Eddie Alvarez.PHOTO: EVOLVE MMA

Singapore is a long way from Las Vegas, the American city famed for its staging of top boxing and mixed martial arts (MMA) bouts.

Yet it was to the Republic that lightweight title holder Rafael dos Anjos turned as he sought to prepare for Ultimate Fighting Championship's (UFC) Fight Night 90 against Eddie Alvarez on July 7.

The Brazilian arrived in Singapore in mid-April for a month-long training stint at Evolve MMA.

It followed the crushing disappointment of having to withdraw from UFC 196's main event against featherweight champion Conor McGregor a month earlier, after he broke his left foot in training.

The 31-year-old, who will leave on Sunday to continue his regimen at California-based Kings MMA, said: "I chose to come to Evolve in Singapore to make my comeback because I need to get a good base before my next fight.

"I want to go back to my roots and learn pure muay thai, and I have a chance to do that here with world champions. They have a lot of experience with over 300 fights."

A member of the Evolve Fight Team since 2009, dos Anjos has seen his fighting skills improve greatly under the tutelage of Evolve coach and founder Chatri Sityodtong, who has also overseen the likes of UFC legend Rich Franklin and One Championship welterweight champion Ben Askren.

He said: "When I first started in UFC, I was a grappler but now I'm a complete fighter.

"To be the best in the world - a UFC champion - you need to be complete in every aspect.

"Since I joined Evolve, I've improved my muay thai a lot. This is where I fell in love with muay thai and every time I come here, I get to learn different things."

Dos Anjos' dedication in the gym has earned the admiration of his Evolve peers.

One Championship straw-weight world champion Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke said: "Rafael is an absolute beast when he trains.

"We train four hours each day and he gives 101 per cent during each training session. He's always willing to share his knowledge of the sport with the rest of us on the Evolve Fight Team and at the same time always looking to learn something new."

Despite boasting an impressive record of 25 wins and seven losses, dos Anjos will not have it easy against Alvarez (27-4).

The American is aiming to become the first fighter in history to win belts with both UFC and rival promotion Bellator, but his Brazilian opponent is unfazed.

Said dos Anjos: "I'm not worried about that, not at all.

"I've worked so hard to be in this position and I know a lot of people want to be where I am. They want to take what belongs to me.

"I'm a champion for a reason and sure, he'll be motivated but the title will remain with me. I'm getting better with every fight.

"I'll be a better Rafael dos Anjos - stronger and faster."

When asked about the possibility of facing McGregor after their cancelled bout, he said: "Sometimes, the fans think we can choose fights but fighters don't pick their fights - whoever UFC puts in front of me, I fight.

"The focus right now is 100 per cent on Alvarez and whatever comes after, I'm ready for it. I'm staying here for the long run, so we'll see."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2016, with the headline 'Back to basics for dos Anjos as he gears up for UFC return'. Print Edition | Subscribe